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August 14, 2014 - August 20, 2014

A Flight Refueled

Eighty-five years ago this week, on August 15, 1929, Nick Mamer and Art Walker took to the skies from Spokane's Felts Field and began a pioneering feat of long-distance endurance flying. After heading south to California, the two men flew to New York and then back to Spokane without ever touching the ground. Refueling was accomplished mid-air (as seen above) at various points along the route, and the fliers traveled 7,200 miles on their record-breaking trip.

Cosponsored by Texaco, the flight garnered plenty of publicity for the oil company and also put Felts Field in the national spotlight. The airstrip, in use since 1913, was originally called Parkwater Aviation Field, and by 1920 it had been designated Spokane's municipal airport. It was visited by Charles Lindbergh in 1927 during his nationwide tour of America following his historic trans-Atlantic flight. That same year the field was renamed in honor of Lt. James Buell Felts, who had recently been killed in a crash there.

Exactly one month after Mamer and Walker's historic flight, Felts Field again opened up new vistas with the launch of Spokane's first airmail flight. In the 1930s, the airport served as a stop for United and Northwest airlines, but after World War II air traffic shifted to Geiger Field (now Spokane International Airport), which had opened as part of the war effort. Felts Field is still an active airport for smaller aircraft, and in 1991 its terminal and other buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Fight Misruled

On August 14, 1944, a riot broke out at Seattle's Fort Lawton between African American soldiers and Italian prisoners of war. The next morning, one of the POWs -- Guglielmo Olivotto -- was found hanged at the bottom of a bluff. Despite evidence that white military police were somehow involved, 43 black U.S. Army soldiers were charged with criminal conduct in the largest Army court martial of World War II.

The charges were prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Leon Jaworski, a Texas prosecutor in civilian life and later a Watergate special prosecutor. Two defense attorneys were given only 10 days to prepare their case for all 43 men. In the end, 28 African American soldiers were convicted of rioting, and most were given dishonorable discharges. Two of them also received prison terms for manslaughter.

World War II ended exactly one year after the murder of Olivotto, and while most of the nation celebrated, the "Fort Lawton 28" did not. Their lives were severely compromised by the dishonorable discharges, the withdrawal of GI benefits, prison time for some, and for many, a lifelong sense of shame at the mistreatment. It wasn't until 2008 -- when only two of the men were still alive -- that their convictions were overturned. One of the two, Samuel Snow (1923-2008), died of congestive heart failure at Virginia Mason Hospital on July 27, 2008, 13 hours after receiving an official apology and honorable discharge.

News Then, History Now

Climbing Up: On August 16, 1868, members of the Coleman party became the first climbers in recorded history to reach the summit of Mount Baker. Nearly 100 years later, in August 1966, casual hikers found new ways to explore Northwest trails when the first of the 100 Hikes series of books was published by Bob and Ira Spring, Louise B. Marshall, and The Mountaineers.

Pour a Cup: On August 16, 1885, the ship Isabel docked in Tacoma carrying 2,000 tons of tea from Asia. The cargo then traveled to the East Coast via the Northern Pacific Railroad, the first large tea shipment to travel by rail across America.

School Marm: On August 15, 1870, Seattle's first public schoolhouse opened, one block west of where the The Seattle Public Library's Central Library stands today. The school's teacher was Elizabeth Ordway, one of the original "Mercer Girls" who had arrived in Seattle six years earlier.

From the Farm: Seattle's first official public market opened on August 17, 1907, and customers have been able to "meet the producer" -- and buy their produce directly -- ever since. Pike Place Market survived economic downturns and wars, only to find itself in peril in 1963 from something more threatening -- urban renewal. In 1971, architect Victor Steinbrueck and Allied Arts rallied to save it. The market was threatened and saved once again in 1991, and it remains a popular destination for Washingtonians and tourists alike.

Workers Harassed: During the summer of 1917, members of the Industrial Workers of the World in Spokane led a statewide loggers' strike, demanding an eight-hour workday and better working conditions. Wobblies were arrested throughout the state, in many cases without due process of law. On August 19, 1917, things came to a head with a raid on the Spokane IWW office, the arrest of union leaders, and a declaration of martial law. Defeated, loggers returned to work in the fall, but kept up the fight.

Respecting the Past: Beginning on August 20, 1931, a historic powwow was held for three days in Cashmere to call attention to the unfair treatment of Indians following Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens's Walla Walla Treaty of 1855. And 10 years ago this week, on August 16, 2003, a largely intact Klallam Indian village was unearthed during construction of a graving dock in Port Angeles as part of the state's replacement of the Hood Canal floating bridge. The operation was relocated at the request of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

Monkeying Around: On August 15, 1940, visitors to Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo went bananas over the antics of about 17 simians released onto the newly built "monkey island." The rocky outcropping -- now remodeled and more verdant -- has housed several species of monkeys over the years and is currently home to a contented troop of lemurs.

Bargains to be Found: Bellevue Square -- the first regional suburban shopping center in the Pacific Northwest -- opened 68 years ago this week on August 20, 1946, and the timing could not have been better. Home sales were skyrocketing in Bellevue, and thousands of new families needed a place to shop. Tolls were still being charged to cross the Lake Washington Floating Bridge to Seattle, which made buying from local retailers all the more attractive to a community transitioning from a small town to a suburban city.

Quote of the Week

If you wanna run cool, you got to run
On heavy, heavy fuel

                    --Mark Knopfler, lyrics "Heavy Fuel"

Image of the Week

On August 18, 1928, a devastating fire swept through the coal-mining town of Ronald.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Theodore Winthrop finishes his tour of Washington Territory at Port Townsend on August 21, 1853.

General William T. Sherman visits Seattle beginning August 21, 1886.

Seattle beginnings: Maple Leaf Post Office opens on August 21, 1889.

Seattle's Union Gospel Mission opens on August 21, 1932.

Dance Marathon/Walkathon closes in Fife after 1,376 hours on August 21, 1935.

Beatles play at the Seattle Center Coliseum on August 21, 1964.

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